Confession time: I almost didn't renew my community garden membership this year.
Because let's be real - it's a lot of work. Gardening right in the ground, instead of in planter boxes or pots or containers, means breaking up soil that has turned into grasslands over the winter, digging trenches for drainage, spreading compost, and putting down woodchips and straw. And that's to say nothing about the part where you actually plant things. It is a process, to say the least, and I am getting a late start this summer, so I was dragging my feet about jumping back in.
But I had very mixed feelings about quitting too. In the two years that I've been gardening, it's become a big part of my identity, right up there with feminist and little-d democrat and world traveler. My friends (who are awesome about humoring me) ask me all summer long how the garden is going. So quitting the garden would have felt like losing a piece of my identity.
But then again, it's unrealistic to think that I am going to keep gardening forever in this particular community plot. After all, I can't just keep picking up hobbies and activities and never quitting anything and eventually driving myself crazy. And I am becoming more and more conscious that saying "yes!" to some things means saying no to others - there just aren't enough hours for everything I'm interested in.
But how do you know when to quit? There's no longer a graduation date beyond which it would be weird to keep showing up to Model UN. And I am not, apparently, a quitter. After all, I've known my best friend for 18 years and my boyfriend for seven.
Those are some big questions, but the framework to answer them is simple enough. I just need to make sure to check in with myself about whether I'm still genuinely interested in something, or whether I'm doing it because I've enjoyed it in the past and invested some of my identity in it and am too stubborn to admit it's no longer working for me.
So after some soul-searching and with some hesitation, I sent my check in the mail and showed up in the garden in early June after getting back from Central America. And when I got out there and stuck the garden fork in the soil and got the dirt under my fingernails, there was this tremendous feeling of "ahhhh, yes." It is my happy place. It will always be closely bound up in my experience of living in DC.
A couple weeks ago, the homily at Unitarian church was about joy. Specifically - how we should be chasing joy instead of chasing pleasure. The garden is always going to be more work, and less immediate pleasure, than Netflix. But it reminds me again and again that the things that require at least a little bit of effort end up bringing me the most joy.